Flashes strive for consistent 2009 season

Nick Walton

With Edelman gone, offense needs balance

Things may not have gone as planned for the Kent State football team in 2008, but the Flashes look to build on a big year-ending win at the start of this season.

In the final week of the 2008 regular season, the Kent State football team defeated Buffalo 24-21 to end their season at 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Mid-American Conference. Buffalo (8-6, 5-3 MAC) went on to win the MAC Championship, but fell to Connecticut in the International Bowl.

2009 football schedule

SEPT. 3, 7:00 pm vs. Coastal Carolina H

Sept. 12, 2:00 pm at Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)

Sept. 19, 7:00 pm Iowa State H

Sept. 26, 7:00 PM Miami, H MAC

OCT. 3, 7:00 PM at Baylor (Waco, Texas)

Oct. 10, 3:30 pm Bowling Green, H MAC

Oct. 17, 4:00 pm at Eastern Michigan (Ypsilanti, Mich.) MAC

Oct. 24, 2:00 PM at Ohio (Athens, Ohio) MAC

OCT. 31, 2:00 pm Western Michigan, H MAC

Nov. 7, 3:30 pm at Akron MAC

Nov. 21, 1:00 pm

at Temple (Philadelphia, Pa. MAC

Nov. 27, 2:00 pm Buffalo H MAC

H: Home game

MAC: Mid-American Conference game

Kent State coach Doug Martin said his team reacted positively to the win.

“I think what’s changed the mentality of our players was winning the Buffalo game at the end of last season,” Martin said. “(Buffalo) had already locked up the MAC East Championship when we went to play them, and we really challenged our team that if you can beat the MAC East Champions, then you can be the MAC East Champions.”

Entering the 2009 season, the Flashes are looking to be more consistent on the field – a problem Martin said the team must fix.

“If you look at what we’ve done over the last couple of years, at times, we’ve played as well as anybody, but it’s never been anything consistent,” Martin said. “Just like last year, we go down and (give) Miami the worst defeat they’ve ever had, (and) then we go the next week and lose to Bowling Green. That’s what our team has got to understand; you got to bring it every week. There’s got to be a level of consistency if you’re going to compete for a championship.”

One player who has been a

model of consistency throughout his collegiate career is senior running back Eugene Jarvis. But after being one of the nation’s leading rushers in 2007, Jarvis rushed for just 801 yards after missing three games due to an ankle injury in 2008. Jarvis said he is using his injury as motivation for this season.

“I’ve been written off. A lot of people have forgotten about me and things like that, but I just use that as motivation,” Jarvis said. “Last year was tough, watching my team battle against other opponents and me not being able to be out there to help them out.”

Despite needing only 721 yards to become Kent State’s all-time leading rusher, Jarvis is focused on ending his career with a winning record.

“Records are good, but if you’re not winning, it doesn’t really mean anything,” he said. “When you’re winning, it makes it feel that much greater, being that you’re doing something good and your team is doing well.”

One of the consistent aspects of Kent State’s offensive attack for the last three years was the playmaking ability of quarterback Julian Edelman, who was signed by the New England Patriots in July. Last season, Edelman was the second leading rusher in the conference in his final season at Kent State.

Martin said he is confident senior Anthony Magazu or sophomore Giorgio Morgan will take command of a more balanced offense at quarterback this season.

“We were 10th in the nation in rushing last year, but we were last in the conference in passing, so that’s where it has to change,” Martin said. “We’ve got to have much more balance in our offense.

“Obviously, we’re not going to get the rushing yards from our quarterback position that we had. We’ve got to do much more out of the passing game than what we did.”

Martin said he also expects the group at wide receiver to improve from last season and contribute more to the offense. Last season, the Flashes only had one receiver, Shawn Bayes, gather more than 500 yards receiving.

Defensively, Martin wants the Flashes to do a better job of rushing the passer and getting more sacks.

“We didn’t have the amount of sacks we had in the past, and that’s got to change,” Martin said. “I think we got to play better up front, and the other thing is we got to play much more aggressively.”

Junior safety Brian Lainhart said the defense underachieved last season, but now the team is ready to compete with the rest of the conference.

“We feel like we’re going to be (better),” Lainhart said. “We’ve always had the talent – that hasn’t been the issue the last three years. We just have to make plays when it’s time to make plays.”

Lainhart and junior linebacker Cobrani Mixon will attempt to fill the leadership roles of last year’s senior duo of linebacker Derek Burrell and cornerback Rico Murray.

On special teams, Martin said he was pleased with the play of sophomore punter Matt Rinehart, but expects competition for the starting place-kicker position.

“The place-kicker part of (the kicking game) was really a disaster for us last year,” Martin said. “(Senior kicker) Nate Reed had a really good year the year before, but struggled (in 2008), so we went out and signed (freshman kicker) Freddy Cortez. He will compete for the starting job with Reed, so hopefully that competition will solve that problem.”

The Flashes’ non-conference schedule includes games against Coastal Carolina and Iowa State and road games against Boston College and Baylor.

“I think this is the best non-

conference schedule we’ve had,” Martin said. “We’re getting to open up with a (Division) I-AA school (Coastal Carolina) at home on a Thursday night. That’s a great way for us to start the season.”

Martin said the experience of playing Boston College and Iowa State in previous seasons will help but said the game at Baylor will be tough because of quarterback Robert Griffin and the team’s improving play during the last couple of seasons.

Martin feels the MAC East will be wide open like last year when Buffalo was able to win behind good quarterback play and strong defensive strategy.

“I think we’re going to be a really good defensive football team,” Martin said. “I think we got two great prospects at quarterback. So if we don’t turn the ball over at the quarterback position and we play defense, we can be there with anybody.”

Kent State will open the season Sept. 3 at home against Coastal Carolina.

Contact sports reporter Nick Walton at [email protected].